Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Government response to House of Lords broadband report


Last month the Government released its response to the House of Lords report Broadband for All: an alternative vision (more here) published earlier this year.

The House of Lords report criticised a number of aspects of the Government's broadband policy; for example, the Lords report asserted that the focus should be on ensuring coverage above speeds. It also argued that current policy is simply pushing the market to do more of what it's already doing, rather than setting out a blueprint for the kind of broadband infrastructure the UK requires.

However, the response shows the Government is unrepentant:
"The Government considered a range of different delivery options prior to embarking on its current approach, including taking into account the cost and need for delivering sustainable solutions that do not require continued government subsidy. It considered that the market was best placed to determine which solutions and network design could deliver affordable and sustainable services to consumers – with technology neutrality key."
The response also refutes the suggestion that more should be done to ensure equivalent access and encourage competition:
"The Government is content that the remedies that Ofcom imposes (such as those in the local loop unbundling market or the recent physical infrastructure access requirements), in both instances, are considered to be proportionate and targeted at ensuring the development of effective and sustainable competition."
Similarly, the response challenges the accusation that current policy is predicated on precise speed targets:
"Current policy is not built around precise speed targets. We have defined superfast broadband as a speed greater than 24 Mbps, in line with the definition adopted by Ofcom in a 2010 report and the BDUK Programme Delivery Model. That speed represented the limit of what was deliverable over copper lines using ADSL2 technology. Superfast broadband therefore represents a step change in terms of capability compared to what was generally available to consumers in 2010…the minimum target speed of 2 Mbps for those we will not be able to reach with superfast broadband by 2015 is also based on the delivery of a basic capability rather than a focus on a specific speed." 
Also of interest in this context is the note that Ofcom are to "publish the first European scorecard by the end of the year", which will form the starting point for evaluating whether the UK has the best superfast broadband in Europe by 2015 in keeping with the Government's ambition. The response downplays the House of Lords report's suggestion that the Government should seek to explore transferring all terrestrial broadcast TV to delivery via the Internet to free up spectrum:
"The Government believes that it would be premature to consider such a move at this time, as it will be some time before an appropriate level of broadband coverage and access matches that available for Digital Terrestrial Television, as the Committee has identified. The Government recognises that there is an increasing number of television services delivered over the internet, but believes consumers should have the choice to decide how best to view and consume content."
All in all, the response seems to have been drafted so as to draw a line under the House of Lords report, with little if any change to current broadband policy seeming likely to ensue as a result. Coverage from ISP Review here.

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